By Naveen Jindal School of Management for Dallas Innovates
Walter Voit is a serial inventor with more ideas than time to execute them. Voit, an associate professor in material science engineering at The University of Texas at Dallas, started his first company a decade ago when he was a grad student at UT Dallas.
This spring, Voit and his company, Adaptive 3D Technologies, came in first place in the Advanced Manufacturing and New Materials category at the U.S. China Innovation and Investment Summit held in May in Houston.
Assistant professor Dr. Walter Voit BS’05, MS’06, fist-bumped Dr. Jonathan Reeder PhD’16, materials science, and engineering. [Photos: Courtesy of UTD]
The result: Voit will be traveling to China to meet with investors and prospective partners to seek additional support for his product, specialty polymer resins that enable companies to use 3D printers to create products with superior properties. Voit is the founder and CEO of Adaptive 3D.
HOW BLACKSTONE LAUNCHPAD PLAYED A PART
Great products star in any startup. However, the support Adaptive 3D got from the recently opened Blackstone LaunchPad at UT Dallas certainly helped.
“Through the support of Blackstone … we have been able to hire more than a dozen former students from UT Dallas,” Voit says.
Two of those students, Zach Reagan and Charles Smith, work at Adaptive 3D now. Both are completing their MBAs this year at UT Dallas’ Naveen Jindal School of Management.
“My focus in the MBA program is innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Reagan, who also earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at UT Dallas. “I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but from a very young age, I assumed I’d be an ‘inventor.’ … Being on the employee side (at Adaptive 3D) will be really helpful for me to know what to expect when I’m the founder of a startup. In the meantime, I greatly prefer to work for a smaller company centered around science and technology.”
Smith performs market analysis related to new product development for Adaptive 3D.
“I’ll admit that I don’t believe my current position fits in with my previous interest in entrepreneurship,” Smith says. “But the experience has affirmed my expectations about the challenges of starting and running a small business from the ground up.”
THE VALUE OF WORKING FOR A STARTUP
“Starting a business is incredibly challenging,” says Bryan Chambers, the Blackstone LaunchPad director.
“One of the most valuable experiences a student or future entrepreneur can do is work for a startup. This provides real insights into how competitive the startup environment is and helps workers understand how to cope with unpredictable and extreme work environments. More times than not, team members have to wear many hats and learn new tasks and skills that were not expected.”
“With China, patience is most important to building successful relationships — it’s a big strategy, and it’s very complex.”
Blackstone LaunchPad helped Voit sharpen his presentation and pitch for the Houston event. “We’re here to help create results and produce outcomes,” says Bryan Chambers, the Blackstone LaunchPad director.
Chambers has less to do with the production of new products and ideas and more with helping entrepreneurs execute their strategies.
“With China, patience is most important to building successful relationships — it’s a big strategy, and it’s very complex,” he says.
SKYVEN AIMS TO SOLVE HUMANKIND’S GREATEST PROBLEMS
Arun Gupta, Ph.D. is another entrepreneur headed to China because of his company’s outstanding performance in the Renewable Energy and Clean Tech competition at the same Houston summit.
Gupta’s Dallas-based company, Skyven, uses proprietary Intelligent Mirror Array technology that concentrates sunlight to produce very high heat with high efficiency. For manufacturing and large commercial applications, the cost benefits can be significant.
“Skyven is an opportunity to maximize impact on three of [humankind’s greatest] problems — poverty, health and climate change.”
Like Voit, Gupta has been in the innovation space for a long time — both incorporate research with Texas Instruments and Medtronic — and on his own perfecting the mirror array technology.
“I’m driven to do everything in my power to help solve some of humankind’s greatest problems. Skyven is an opportunity to maximize impact on three of those problems — poverty, health, and climate change.”
Chambers found out about Skyven through the UT Dallas Seed Fund. Then, through Earth Day Texas, he was able to recruit Skyven.
“Gupta and Skyven’s relation with Blackstone LaunchPad is just beginning but we’re glad we can make an impact,” Chambers says.
“The China trip has the potential to be a game-changer,” Gupta says, “because China has a huge need for innovative, renewable energy technologies such as ours.”
“Industrial customers in many parts of China do not have access to inexpensive natural gas and are burning costly, dirty fuels, such as heavy oil. Skyven has the potential to make an impact on both fronts.”
“China is suffocating from a massive pollution problem, one that is affecting the health and quality of life of its citizens. Furthermore, industrial customers in many parts of China do not have access to inexpensive natural gas and are burning costly, dirty fuels, such as heavy oil. Skyven has the potential to make an impact on both fronts.”
Voit is eager for the upcoming trip.
“The trip to China will fulfill a strategic part of our manufacturing strategy and begin to develop what we hope are lifelong relationships with great partners in China who will work with us to bring exciting products to the marketplace,” Voit says.
“It was daunting to enter into Asia for the first time in one of our other businesses, and we never quite figured out how to do it well. I am hopeful that this pathway to unlock great partners in China will prove to be a successful strategy.”
FOSTERING CROSS-CAMPUS COLLABORATIONS
A third Blackstone LaunchPad winner, Blake Teipel, president and CTO of Essentium, which develops advancements in materials science to improve existing products, also is headed to China after performing well in Houston.
Teipel works with the Blackstone LaunchPad office at Texas A&M University in College Station. Chambers says one of the goals of the organization, with 18 additional participating campuses worldwide, is to foster innovative networking and cross-campus collaborations.
The Houston event and subsequent trip to China to meet with potential investors will be an “eye-opening experience for our participants,” Chambers says.
“These are potentially life-altering business opportunities.”